Tuesday, August 29, 2017


From the Sanskrit himalayah, literally "abode of snow," from hima "snow" + alaya "abode." Himalayas:  Mountain range in Asia, extending east through Pakistan, India, China (Tibet), Nepal, and Bhutan.

Also home to yaks. The domestic yak (Bos grunniens) is a long-haired domesticated bovid found throughout the Himalaya region of southern Central Asia, the Tibetan Plateau and as far north as Mongolia and Russia.

Yak wool is derived from the coat of yaks, a herd animal that is found in the mountainous regions of Central Asia. Yaks have long shaggy hair and a dense woolly undercoat. It is this soft fine under hair that is most desirable for manufacturing, and is removed by de-hairing.

So for my third scarf in the series, I chose a 55% silk and 45% yak blend (7600 yds/ lb). My skein label from the current Treenway management says its a 30/2 but my trusty silk chart from the older incarnation of Treenway says its a 32/2 and I would agree. Its much finer.  So this scarf is slightly weft faced but its just fine, because its fine.   I had a fully loaded pirn of it after my recent shawl project so I gave it a test try and liked it against the black silk.

It means the pattern is smaller and tighter. Nice crisp definition.  It makes working with finer threads so worthwhile !   It does add up to a lot more treadling but you get into the rhythm of it and it just adds up.  Weaving with fine threads is just the same as working with 8/2 or larger.... there's just more to each step.   Would you like to try finer threads? Work your way down by progressively using finer .... say if you are used to 8/2 (at 18 for lace, 20 for plain weave and 24 for twills) , then try 10/2 next time (20 for lace, 24 for plain weave, and 28 for twills)....then shift to 16/2 for some finer weight kitchen towels perhaps? (24 for lace, 30 for plain weave, 36 for twills).  All the other steps remain the same; just take your time and work through slowly each step.

Its more work overall so this is why weavers put on longer warps and plan multiple projects.  It makes the set up time really count, and reduces the overall loom waste.  Plus my favourite.... only one tie up for much or all of it! (some weavers will get under the loom mid warp and change it part way so they can get a new look and alleviate the boredom!)

The black silk most likely was originally from either India  (visit the Indian Government Silk Board link), or China. 

Modern Silk Production

Today over half (52%) of the world's silk is produced in China. The second largest production is from India who produces 14%. But silk is an important product for many cultures including Uzbekistan, Brazil, Iran, Thailand, and Vietnam. Japan is often associated with silk but only a small amount of sericulture is done in Japan. Japan is more active in production of silk-based products. (From Wikipedia)

The Chinese word for silk is 'si.'
The Manchurain word is 'sirghe.'
The Mongolian word for silk is 'sirkek.'

This lovely silvery beige is a blending of bombyx mori silk and yak undercoat fibre. Bombyx mori silk is created from moths who eat nothing but mulberry leaves and so the silk produced  is a white or ivory shade.   (Moths that eat other leaves with tannins and / or live in the 'wild' produce silk with a golden hue and its called tussah)

I have heard many weavers say that they are "saving their silk stash for later". That they feel they aren't up to the task. In short, silk intimidates them.   Well, no one warned me I should be nervous and  with the enthusiasm that comes with being a newbie I started weaving with silk about a year into my early weaving days.  Its actually quite strong on the loom and handles the tension well.  Its not a fan of abrasion but not many yarns are so be sure to beam well and allow for draw in, or use a temple.   

It takes a dye beautifully!  Its a protein fibre so use acid based dyes such as Telana, or Lanaset.  Don't let your temperatures go above 180 degrees as high heat will destroy the silk.    I also recommend orvus paste to scour the silks and let them soak a good amount of time to be thoroughly saturated. Many are now using procion mx and using the cold set process to dye silk (or any fibre!)

This picture above show both sides of the scarf. It measures 8 inches by 74 inches plus fringe.  This time I twisted three fringe groups to produce a rounder cord.  It washed and pressed up beautifully and looks quite elegant. It will be a nice statement against a black top coat. 

I added it to my Etsy shop and it sat for almost a week and then suddenly it was sold. The buyer is my client who commissioned me to weave the other two silk scarves!  I can't blame her though because if she is to give the other two away as gifts, then its nice to have one of her own.  So its ready to be shipped off today and so come to a journey's conclusion..... after all the Himalayan region is quite the start in life..... and its will finally land and live in "Weaverville".    I just love that name!

I have become friends with my client through this year of weaving together  and we have had some nice phone chats.  She specializes in spinning and weaving exotic luxury fibres such as Arctic Musk Ox Qiviut which is becoming rare and hard to find. Its essentially a Musk Ox's fine under coat that it naturally sheds each spring.

Hhmm, isn't that what yak fibre is?

In our house, especially with a dog, we have always called the finer undercoat of any critter their "underwear".   This goes way back to the days when we had a parrot named Ronnie and she would preen her feathers and drop all these little white fluffy bits all over the floor.   We would tell her to stop throwing her underwear on the floor.  Well, it seems we were right after reading the definition of qiviut... it also referred to bird's feathers as well as the musk ox.  How about that? 😳  we honestly didn't know that !

Ronnie- a double yellow napped Amazon parrot, and yes she could talk! 


Peg Cherre said...

Another very informative post. Thanks.

Lynnette said...

What a great post Susan, so much information packed in there. You've made me determined to haul out my Yak/Silk blend and give it a go! The finished scarf is truly elegant and will no doubt become your clients favourite scarf.